By Sharon Knapp Lamberth
Think about the last time you laughed, really laughed; a laugh that brought tears to your eyes; a laugh that had you doubling over; a laugh that had you stopping to catch your breath, only to start laughing again. If you are like most of us, a good laugh feels…so GOOD! Now think about the last time you laughed with your child(ren). For some it may have been yesterday, or today. For others, it may be a distant memory. If you are having a difficult time recalling when you last laughed with your child(ren) it is time for a reboot.
The old cliche, laughter is the best medicine, is anchored in truth. Laughter activates an area of the brain that leads to benefits such as improved sleep, lowered blood pressure, improved circulation, increased oxygen intake, improved digestion, and a strengthened immune system. As a mood elevator, laughter has the ability to immediately lower anxiety. Lowering anxiety allows us to cope more effectively with pain and stress and helps boost the immune system. Our bodies can actually relax for up to 45 minutes after a good laugh.
Laughter is the most noted characteristic associated with a good sense of humor. Recognized as a social skill, a good sense of humor is beneficial to children as well as adults. In children, a healthy sense of humor can lead to the development of a positive sense of self, strong social and problem-solving skills, and critical thinking skills. When children can tell or understand a joke, it shows that they can think critically about sentence structure and human behavior.
Individuals with a good sense of humor are inclined to form friendships easily. Children enjoy being around other children who smile often, laugh easily, and are generally positive. Good-humored children tend to understand/accept that no one is perfect, making them more willing to laugh at their own mistakes, an advantageous coping mechanism both in and outside of the school setting. One bout of laughter can instantly lower stress related to a negative incident. Being able to ‘laugh off’ occasional encounters with bullying, hurt feelings, and defeat helps children build resilience. The less resilient one is, the more likely the tendency to give in or give up when facing a challenge.
Though not all children have a natural tendency to laugh or be humorous, exposing them to others who do can be beneficial. Children actually create humor just like they create art or dramatic play. Allowing (even encouraging) children to create humor at home, school, on the playground, or during pretend play fosters relaxation and creates a more playful climate that leads to further creativity. When an atmosphere includes humor and playfulness, laughter will likely be present.
Finally, humor that elicits laughter has the ability to counteract negativity and an adverse emotional climate. It can offer a welcomed pause from the more serious aspects of the real world, including stressful family situations. Additionally, it allows children the freedom to deviate from day-to-day rules; to experience a respite from the way things really are.
Just as a ‘reboot’ refreshes a computer, parents who actively participate in, encourage, and embrace laughter as an integral part of daily life may end up discovering that a refreshing ‘family reboot’ was exactly what was needed. So, go ahead – Laugh Out Loud and enjoy it!